United Way changing community investment process

Within the last five years, Jackson County United Way has begun thinking more strategically about how it supports programs throughout the county.

It has worked with its funded organizations to shift the granting process away from an agency allocation process to one of program funding. Historically, select organizations would receive funds for being United Way community partners, regardless of the program work of the organization.

As JCUW transitions into a more focused approach to investing grant dollars and working toward a bold goal, however, this process has changed, and results-oriented, data-driven programming is crucial in ensuring the community moves forward.

This transition comes on the heels of hosting countywide Community Conversations in 2018 and 2021, where community members of all backgrounds were invited to meet together to discuss the biggest issues and their hopes and vision for their communities.

During these conversations, the same themes came up repeatedly, including access to affordable child care, food insecurity, lack of affordable housing and transportation. The key issue that brings all of the themes together was financial instability for many residents across the county.

In Jackson County, 6,600 households, which is roughly 39% of residents, live below the poverty line or right above the poverty line. They also are known as ALICE families. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These households earn above the federal poverty line but not enough to afford basic household necessities.

With this population in mind, JCUW is working toward a bold goal for the community to move 1,000 struggling working families into stability by 2030.

“When we looked at the results from Community Conversations, talks with program participants and information from other organizations, we knew that we had to invest our donors’ dollars in a more strategic way that brings about the most impact,” Executive Director Maci Baurle said. “It’s important to us that we listen to the community and its biggest needs as we enter this new chapter of JCUW funding.”

Board member Terrye Davidson said through working on the committee for the new impact funding process, she sees the collective impact that these grant dollars can have with many organizations doing their part to support the ALICE families.

“Through this new, more intentional funding process, we can have collective success, as well,” she said.

JCUW knows not all previous community partners will fit in with the qualifications of the new funding requirements. To continue community partnerships, the organization has launched legacy funding, a separate campaign for prior partnering organizations to apply for dollars on an as-needed basis.

This new Legacy Fund will give the opportunity to celebrate those organizations that share a rich and collaborative history with JCUW.

For those applying for impact funding for the 2023-24 cycle, the process looks very similar to previous years with one addition, working with Stephanie Strothmann, JCUW’s impact director, to make sure the organization and programs are claimed on Hoosier Help (hoosierhelp.org).

Hoosier Help, formerly known as Aunt Bertha or Find Help, is tailored to meet the needs of those in the community and is available at no cost to JCUW’s partnering organizations. This free database helps the local organizations by allowing referrals to be made seamlessly from one resource to another.

“This is just one more way that we can make resources accessible to Jackson County residents,” Strothmann said. “The more organizations and services we can list online, the easier it will be for individuals and families to find the resources they may find themselves needing to get by.”

In times of change, JCUW is grateful for the community’s support for the last 60 years. Jackson County United Fund began in 1962 as a way for people to pool their money to give to the greatest of causes. To this day, their donors make this work possible.

“We’re still doing what began 60 years ago,” Baurle said. “By continuing to invest wisely in the social agencies that are fulfilling the greatest needs of the community, we help to make Jackson County a stronger and better place for people to live.”

For information, call JCUW at 812-522-5450.